So much attention is being devoted to the race for president in 2016, you might be forgiven if you overlooked the fact that come March 15, you'll also be selecting candidates for races much closer to home.
And political special interests haven't either. On many levels, the spring primary ‐‐ in which we will nominate county board members and county officers, state's attorneys, state representatives, state senators, judges and congressmen, as well as presidential candidates ‐‐ can be considered the most important of the two major elections that will take place in 2016. Consider:
• As much as it galls me to acknowledge it, in many of those county, state and even congressional races, the March primary won't just pick the party candidate who will compete for the seat in November, it will effectively, and likely in many cases conclusively, pick the candidate who will win the seat.
• Even in situations where a legitimate two‐party race emerges, the nature of the race will be determined in the primary, and it may not reflect the contest most voters of either party would like to see. Even as I write this, I've just been copied on an email from a staunchly conservative special interest that openly warns any Republican congressman who supports the budget compromise reached among President Obama and U.S. Reps. John Boehner and Paul Ryan to expect an expensive and vigorous primary challenge. History tells us that this type of selection process in a low‐turnout primary often produces candidates a broader party won't support in November, virtually assuring victory for "the other side." If you're honest about wanting government leaders who can compromise, you'd best be prepared to vote in March. And, for that matter, if you're honest about wanting leaders who won't compromise on the values you consider important, you'd best be prepared to vote in March.
• Obviously, the election of a president is important. But the selection of county officers, state's attorneys and even state senators and representatives will have a more immediate and direct impact on the issues that shape your life and pocketbook.
• I don't think it's hyperbole to say that the decisions we will make in 2016 will have historic consequences ‐‐ for the nation, to be sure, but also for the quality of life and economic future of Illinois. The sad process of gerrymandering already makes answering such challenges at the ballot box difficult ﴾study the Independent Map Amendment, http://www.mapamendment.org/index.html, to help correct this abomination﴿, but if we fail to make it to the polls in the spring, we could be relinquishing to an also‐ ran election in the fall our influence in momentous decisions affecting our working conditions, our property taxes, the amount we pay toward public pensions or receive in such pensions and other serious matters.
Our editors held a first meeting this week to begin preparing our coverage of these spring races. We'll soon be getting an early start on collecting contact information for candidates ‐‐ who begin filing on Nov. 23 ‐‐ and preparing questionnaires that we can publish after the first of the year to help you better get to know them.
Yes, we understand that the outsized personalities on the national political stage attract and deserve attention. But let's none of us underestimate the importance of the many less‐sensational races coming in 2016 ‐‐ and especially the primary elections that will ultimately define them.
Jim Slusher, [email protected], is assistant managing editor for opinion at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/jim.slusher1 and on Twitter at @JimSlusher.